Housecore Horror Film Festival Co-Founder, Corey Mitchell

Housecore Horror Film Festival Co-Founder, Corey Mitchell

Today was to be the day I would write my round-up of Housecore Horror Film Festival but all that went out the window yesterday with the news of festival co-founder, metal journalist and true Crime author Corey Mitchell’s passing. Mitchell, 47, suffered a massive heart attack while loading out the festival Monday morning at Emo’s. A friend of mine texted me the news after he read it on the Housecore facebook page and I was/stillam just in shook. I just saw him, had several conversations with him over the weekend. Its so epically tragic, happening the morning after such a triumph, pulling off the 2nd Housecore Horror Film Festival, a fest that brought together metal acts, horror filmmakers, and an array of artists and vendors all in support of their common love of fear.

Corey Mitchell and Phil Anselmo at HHFF 2013

Corey Mitchell and Phil Anselmo at HHFF 2013

I haven’t known Corey for long, but he changed my life. He walked up to me at Sundance in 2013, outside the Austin Film Society sponsored party, and introduced himself. He told me about the new festival he was starting, he recognized me as the Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival at the time, and he wanted us to put something together. I realized very quickly I had been reading his articles on Metal Sucks for years. We talked a bunch that week and in the weeks after, about our mutual love of horror and metal music. I remember him saying ‘it seems like really you should be working for me’ as I was trying to push for more horror and darker material in general at AFF. I thought his whole idea for the Housecore Horror festival was amazing, bringing together artist from different fields that are natural if unspoken collaborators. The first true metal band Black Sabbath named themselves after a movie, and ever since then the connection has been obvious to fans of both horror and metal. In a way, HHFF does everything the SXSW could do but for some reason doesn’t seem to, it builds bridges between communities and allows fans to wander in and out of different experiences. (SXSW is just too big and too expensive to allow the sort of free-form discovery that is possible at a smaller festival by a casual fan). But Austin also already had a festival that played a lot of horror, Fantastic Fest. This was one of the first things I said to Corey when he told me about Housecore Horror, wasn’t he worried? He wasn’t, he said these fans are hungry and loyal and rabid, and besides, he wanted to do it, Phil Anselmo (co-founder and Metal God) wanted to do it, and he was willing to risk it. Unfortunately, I was never able to get HHFF and AFF together in our first year, despite countless ideas from Mitchell – I couldn’t get anybody else at my festival on board with the idea of helping a new fest on THE SAME WEEKEND. To myself I thought ‘good for him.’ Out loud I told everyone how frustrating it was that Mitchell and Anselmo had orchestrated the first ever Goblin reunion and gotten them to live score Suspira and I was missing it.

When I left AFF this year, Mitchell was one of the first people I contacted. I think I was hoping he would offer me a job. He said something better. He said ‘well, what do you want to do?’ Everything I’ve done this year, founding Other Worlds Austin, Austin’s first festival dedicated to science fiction, only happened because of Corey Mitchell. His determination and guts to just start a new festival and believe that if he built it, people would come, has been a constant source of inspiration for me. I got to attend Housecore Horror this year and it was everything I thought it would be. I ambled from one tent showing horror metal film Trick or Treat on 35, to a stage to catch part of Acid Witch’s blistering opening set of John Carpenter-inspired cinematic metal, to a row of venders selling horror comics, one of which had just been shot as a short film. I met practically the entire cast of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1 and 2!) and watched an emotional set from Gwar in which various characters battled for the leadership of the band in the absence of Oderus Urungus (founder Dave Brockie who died in March of this year). Every time I saw Corey he seemed to be having the best time, introducing filmmakers like John Borowski, a contributor to Mitchell’s own In Cold Blog, a true crime blog, or just chatting with attendees outside of the tents. Saturday morning before the day truly began he told me how excited he was for my festival, and that he was looking forward to checking it out. I told him I was glad that I finally got to his fest since I had missed last year. And then he moved on to check on another venue set-up.

Mitchell's 2005 True Crime novel

Mitchell’s 2005 True Crime novel

Mitchell was a fantastic journalist, and I could see in everything he wrote, that like me, he really loves what he is writing about, and he is doing it to help – helping films find an audience, helping metalheads discover new acts. He covered horror film on the festival circuit for Bloody-Disgusting.com and metal bands and classic metal albums for MetalSucks.net. He also wrote a number of True Crime novels including one about a series of murders in Austin called Murdered Innocents and was working with Anselmo on his autobiography (due out in 2015). I saw Corey several times on Sunday but I think my last sight of him on Saturday night is going to be the image that sticks with me. I had been there since 10:30 in the morning and made it all the way through to the 12:45 am Q&A with the cast of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. The film looked glorious on the huge rolling roadshow outdoor screen in the riverside parking lot. I’ve already seen the movie like 50 times so I knew I was never going to make it through the whole thing. Around 1:45 I headed out to my car. I saw Corey out in the parking lot, leaning on a car hood, watching the film (and his film festival) from a distance, relaxing I’m sure for the first time that day. I raised my hand in the air to say goodnight and he did the same, then he looked back to the film. He was a fan, he wasn’t missing this chance to see TCM on the big screen.

Life is too short. But Corey Mitchell just got shit done. He dreamt it and he made it happen. He was and is an inspiration and a guiding light in the Austin festival community. I’ll never forget him. He is survived by a wife and two daughters, who basically had the coolest dad in the world. He is also survived by a whole network of bands and filmmakers and festival alumni who, unfortunately, after an amazing weekend experience, will always have this tragic coda to their memories. I hope Housecore Horror Film Festival returns somehow next year, if only to celebrate Mitchell’s vision, but for now I will cherish the memory of what he accomplished, and the way he did it. Rock on, Corey.

 

Bears Fonté is the Founder and Executive Director of Other Worlds Austin, a new festival in Texas’ capital focused on SciFi.  Prior to that, Bears served as Director of Programming for Austin Film Festival from 2012-14, overseeing some 200 films selected to screen at eight venues over eight days.  The 2013 Festival saw 28 world premiere features and 7 films picked up at the festival or the week after.  His most recent short film, THE SECRET KEEPER, has been selected by over 35 US Film Festivals since September of 2012.  His feature thriller iCRIME, which he wrote and directed, was released on DVD, VOD and streaming by Vicious Circle Films in 2011.  Bears also self-produced two web-series which have been seen by a combined ten million viewers.

Prior to arriving in Austin, Bears wrote coverage for independent producers and coverage services in LA and placed in nearly every single screenwriting contest out there including Screenwriter’s Expo, Final Draft Big Break, Page International, Story Pros and Austin Film Festival.

Bears received his BA from Carleton College in British Studies and Theatre Studies and a MFA in Directing from Indiana University and has directed over forty plays, including the Austin Critics Table nominee Corpus Christi, and the Austin Shakespeare Festival’s Complete Works of Shakspeare Abridged. He studied writing with noted playwrights Jeff Hatcher and Denis Reardon, and directed the first-ever professional productions by Princess Grace Award-winning and Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright Don Zolidis and up-and-coming playwright Itamar Moses. He is currently working on a new five minute short to submit to festivals in 2015.

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